The Australian gets it wrong on climate

The last 12 months has been the hottest on record in Australia.

A media campaign began this month to discredit the findings of the fifth major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be released on September 27.

The Australian published a front page story on September 16 headlined: “We got it wrong on warming, says IPCC”.

The story claimed that the IPCC overestimated the rate of global warming and “the world has in fact been warming at half the rate claimed in the previous IPCC report in 2007.”

The article has been slammed by Australia’s climate scientists who say the Australian misreported the facts.

The newspaper said: “The 2007 assessment report said the planet was warming at a rate of 0.2°C every decade, but according to Britain’s The Daily Mail the draft update report says the true figure since 1951 has been 0.12°C.”

Dr John Cook, a research fellow in climate communication at the University of Queensland, said: “This article demonstrates the inherent dangers in sourcing scientific information from a UK tabloid rather than climate scientists.

“The Australian discusses a slowdown in surface temperature but fails to consider that the planet as a whole continues to build up heat at an accelerating rate, currently at a rate of 4 Hiroshima bombs-worth of heat every second.

“The Australian also fails to report the growing body of research indicating that the slowdown in surface temperature is due to more heat accumulating in the ocean, indicated by direct ocean heat measurements. Discussion of ocean heat uptake is expected to be included in the upcoming IPCC report.”

In fact, predictions the IPCC made in 2007 have been shown to be correct. David Karoly, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Melbourne and a review editor of the IPCC report, said: “The observed global average warming of surface air temperature over the last 60 years of 0.12°C per decade is almost identical to the value reported in the IPCC report in 2007 of 0.13°C per decade for the period 1956-2005.”

The Australian said Matt Ridley from the Wall Street Journal claimed “most experts believed that warming of less than 2°C from pre-industrial levels would result in no net economic and ecological damage. ‘Therefore, the new report is effectively saying (based on the middle of the range of the IPCC's emissions scenarios) that there is a better than 50-50 chance that by 2083 the benefits of climate change will still outweigh the harm.’”

Professor Steven Sherwood, a professor from the University of NSW and a lead author on the report, said: “The quote from Matt Ridley that most experts believe warming of under 2°C will be beneficial is also incorrect. Instead, 2°C is often taken to be the maximum ‘safe’ warming before which dangerous thresholds, such as the warming needed to guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet, may be crossed.

“Past assessments have projected that business-as-usual warming must almost certainly exceed 2°C (IPCC 2007 set a range of about 3-6°C above preindustrial by 2100), and no new results have emerged that could cause a significant revision to that assessment.”